Limited Maps Contribute to Response Delay

The Alpharetta, Georgia 9-1-1 maps only included the city, not neighboring areas in Cherokee County. It appears now that the lack of maps outside of city boundaries may have resulted in an 8 minute delay when a car crashed into the water in Cherokee County. Shanell Anderson dialed 9-1-1 from inside her sinking car and the call was routed to the Alpharetta center. In the initial call her phone provided her accurate latitude and longitude, however the mapping system did not plot them because they were outside of the city limits. Dispatcher began sending services to search for Anderson, and called AT&T to try and ping the phone. AT&T was not able to ping the phone, saying it was off or in an area unable to be located.

Read more at 11Alive

Our View

There are a couple lessons we can all learn from this incident. It doesn’t appear from the information provided that any one person is at fault here, rather this was a systematic failure.

First we see the lack of mapping outside the city limits. We now know that the 9-1-1 system properly provided an accurate location, however the mapping system did not have maps covering that area. If you work for an agency that has a similar system, or are provided with a location outside your jurisdiction consider plotting the coordinates in different software. Google maps or similar free online programs allow you to enter coordinates by latitude and longitude. Mapping services may also be able to provide location suggestions if you have partial or partially correct street name.

Second we are reminded that locating someone using their cellphone is far from a fool proof process. After the 9-1-1 call it appears that Anderson’s cellphone stopped working when it became wet. The public, and to an extent our responders, believe that through a simple process help can find you based on your phone. As much as locating a subscriber cell phone unit is a tool in our box, it is only one tool.

Finally a simple take away from this incident. You are always being recorded. We all know this, and should be aware of it, however it is easy to forget that the phone is still recording when you are on hold. A simple off-handed comment or thought uttered under your breath becomes public record.